The Low-bills Living Course

This course is offered by me to anyone who wants to live with low bills. I’m Michael Mobbs, the Off-grid Guy.

You need no special skills or qualifications.  The appliances, materials and designs are ordinary. Local trades can install and maintain them.

A low bills house is easy to build and to live in.  You can expect energy and water bills less than $1000 for a four-person household.

Since 1996 my four-person household has had energy and water bills less than $300 a year.  

Even when my two children were 6 and 10 years old, when the clothes washing machine went every other day, the bills here were less than $300 a year.

The kitchen in Sydney's Sustainable house

The kitchen in Sydney's Sustainable house

We can go low bills in steps.

Rule of thumb:  if you spend about $20,000 you will save $2000 to $4,000 a year in energy and water bills; spend about $10,000 and your savings will be about $1,000 to $2,000 a year.

We’ll choose options you prefer to start getting low household energy and water bills.

We’ll identify the details and options for your project.  I’ll share the must-do's, the options, the mistakes, and cost saving examples.

Next course: 

The next 4 day course is over two weekends:

23, 24 June 2018


30 June, 1 July 2018.  


Minimum of 4 students for course to proceed.

Time Required

In four days over two weeks you’ll see, smell, practice, learn-by-doing and working in a small, focussed group.

There’s a maximum of nine people plus me, with some experienced visiting guest teachers.

By spreading the four course days out the course gives you time to think about the information, to develop questions and ideas. 

By the end of the course you will:

  • be data-rich, confident and focussed about your project;
  • have created a draft budget, draft design;
  • have a list of appliances, products and materials (insulation, timber, steel, masonry) of what you need and will work for your project;
  • decide where you wish to begin with materials, consultants, water, energy – you’ll probably have begun already;
  • have a list of tradespeople and other contacts;
  • decided if you will seek price reductions by buying with others, for example, whether you will buy a solar system designed for your house but reduced in price because you will buy in a small group from the one installer;
  • located farmers who can supply you with healthy, nutritious food;
  • begun to turn your waste food into soil by composting;
  • have had four days of intense interaction with a maximum of eight other course participants, myself and guest teachers, plus our contacts and tips
  • received special inclusions with a total value of $200:
  • Morning tea and lunch included
  • Created draft water, recycled water, materials, energy and food design options for your house;
  • Enjoyed a truly unique opportunity to develop your ideas, and to compare and to discuss your choices and needs with those sharing your course.

Course venue and outline

Four day course; conducted in Sydney’s Sustainable House, Chippendale, Sydney - experience an off-grid house:

  • Building and design concepts, approvals, costs
  • Contract options, draft conditions of approval
  • How to make a budget
  • How to survive red tape *
  • Design options for water, recycled water, grey water, materials, cool/warm house, healthy house, recycled materials, insulation options
  • Potential to reduce prices, and to share tradespeople contacts
  • Potential to buy in bulk by buying with your fellow course members or friends; for example, by buying solar systems (tailor-made to your project) with other course members or friends

Who is this course for?

A tour group in the garden of Sydney's Sustainable House

A tour group in the garden of Sydney's Sustainable House

This course is for you if you are interested in:

  • Low household energy and water bills
  • Deciding where to start your project for having low energy and water bills year after year
  • Going off-grid, partly off-grid, or simply having low energy and water bills
  • Learning with others so you, too, can show your friends and others how to use what fall for free from the sky – the rain, the sun’s light and heat, and the wind that blows
  • Developing contacts with builders, plumbers, solar installers
  • Minor, partial or total renovation or new build
  • All the appliances, systems can be fitted into existing or new buildings.

Preparation, fact sheets and course materials

Upon enrolment and payment:

  • Initial course materials are provided by email to enable you to begin preparing for the course
  • You provide me basic information I need to help you prepare your budget during the course and to begin developing concepts for low bills living; for example, property location, your budget so far, list of priorities so far, bills showing how much energy and water you use
  • Materials are supplemented during the course with further notes, fact sheets
  • At the first day you receive a copy of Sustainable House and Sustainable Food

Off-grid scholarship offered for two people living outside Sydney

I may offer two scholarships for two people living at least 200 kilometres outside Sydney to do the  course by distance for no fees and by using Skype from your home to join lessons being delivered in my house.

Both course members and scholarship holders will be welcome to contact me during and after the course for no additional fee.


Next Course

The next course will be:

  • 23, 24 June, and 30 June, 1 July 2018

Course Costs

$990 (incl GST) per person

Note: the course is limited to a maximum of nine people.

Please consider carefully as we are unable to offer refunds for course cancellations after enrolment by four people.

Couples; by arrangement by email;  $990 (incl GST) for first person paid via this site, $450 for the second person with the second payment arranged by email.

NOTE:  Deadline for enrolling and paying is:  

Monday 4 June 2018

Minimum of 4 students for course to proceed.


  Tony Peppercorn
"Thanks Michael for a great course over the last fortnight. I thought the course design and structure was excellent and exceeded my expectations.

I liked the choice and variety of presenters and the opportunity to ask detailed questions after their presentations. All gave generously of their time.

I would also like to thank you for awarding me the prize(more like dubious honour ;-) ) at the course for the household with the highest peak electricity load."

 Laura Ryan
"I recently attended Michael's 4 day course. I'm about to start renovating a house in Newtown. This will be my second renovation and I wanted to make sure I don’t repeat the mistakes from the last renovation.
Michael’s course provides invaluable project management guidance with everything from guidance on negotiating a building contract, selecting the right materials to “bill proof” your house, how to select the appropriate battery and solar panel combination and how to engage builders/architects/suppliers to make sure you get the right outcome.
The added bonus is that I also learned the most cost effective ways to simultaneously reduce my carbon footprint and reduce my bills!"

Fiona Little

I signed on for Michael's course because I wanted to reduce my environmental impact in daily living and for an upcoming renovation. Over the 2 weekends of the course we covered  an extraordinary range of material and were able to see and feel what could be achieved in low bills and sustainable living. Michael's course helped me bridge the gap between my environmental "wish list" and the nuts and bolts of putting it into place.
Great course Michael, thanks

About Me

I live in Chippendale, Sydney, in Sydney’s Sustainable House.  Here’s a 2 minute 20 second video about the place.

I grew up on the Lachlan river, downstream from Forbes, NSW, and went to Yanco Agricultural High School.  I remember the 1956 flood when we didn’t get off the farm for four months.

Perhaps it was this beginning which led me in 1996 to disconnect my inner city terrace from town water and sewer and install a solar system - to do in the  city what farmers do in the country every day.  With two young kids the washing machine went every other day but in the 21 years since no stormwater or sewage has left the clay soil site where it’s been absorbed below ground; over 2 million litres of stormwater and 2 million litres of recycled sewage has been kept here on a site 5 m wide by 30 m long and in about 8 m2 of back yard soil.

Water and energy bills have stayed at less than $300 a year since 1996.

I look forward to sharing my mistakes, data, stories, and to hearing about your plans for your household, your water and energy bills, and to working with you so you, too, may have a simple, low bills household.

 * I practised environmental law for 19 years and will share practical, proven tips about solutions to red tape - about how not to be a victim of complex laws and unhelpful administrators of them, all of which unnecessarily hinder low bills living, efficient design and development, healthy design, healthy materials.